Ruslan Abashidze Made New Head of Abkhazia’s Government in Exile

First Deputy State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality of Georgia, Ruslan Abashidze, has become the new Head of the legitimate Government of Abkhazia, which is in exile in Tbilisi.

Abashidze became the Head of Abkhazia’s government after the former head, Vakhtang Kolbaia, stepped down after holding the post since 2013.

The Tbilisi-based Supreme Council of Abkhazia, which has been in exile since the armed conflict in the early 1990s, decided to elect Abashidze during its sitting on May 1.

The decision to appoint a new head follows the appointment of a new chairman of the Supreme Council, Jemal Gamakharia, who replaced Elguja Gvazava, serving since 2009.

The new Head of Abshazia’s Government in Exile will be part of the Georgian delegation at the Geneva International Discussions, the only format of an international dialogue between Georgia and Russia since the 2008 August War.

Abashidze served as the Deputy State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality from January 2019. He was the Ambassador of Georgia to Estonia in 2009-2013, prior to which he served as the Deputy State Minister for Reintegration in 2006-2009.

He was an adviser to the Permanent Representative of Georgia to Switzerland and Deputy Director of the Department of Relations with the European Union at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Abashidze is, as of going to print, the “Acting Head” of the Abkhazian government until the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, approves his appointment. After his selection by the Supreme Council of Abkhazia, there were rumors that Abashidze’s appointment was requested by President Zurabishvili, as the two have been friends for a long time.

Abashidze confirmed that he and Zurabishvili are friends and have had a good relationship but he denied the President’s involvement in his selection by the Council.

“I confirm that I am a close friend of Salome Zurabishvili: we have known each other for a long time, but this factor is not related to my position," he said.

Abashidze also responded to the reporters’ question as to who nominated him to the post, saying it was “Abkhazian society.”

Ruslan Abashidze, along with his wife and organizer of the Tbilisi Fashion Week, former model Tako Chkheidze, were among Salome Zurabishvili's donors during October presidential elections. On September 28, 2018, he and his wife together donated GEL 59,958 to Zurabishvili.

According to Ruslan Abashidze, in the next few days he will present an action plan and will begin to form his own cabinet. Breakaway Abkhazia is Georgia’s territory, currently occupied by the Russian Federation. It is recognized as a state by only Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria.

While Georgia lacks control over Abkhazia, the Georgian government and nearly all United Nations member states consider the region as legally part of Georgia, whose constitution designates the area as the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia.

The status of breakaway Abkhazia is a top issue of the Georgian–Abkhazian conflict and Georgia–Russia relations. The region had autonomy within Soviet Georgia at the time when the Soviet Union began to fall apart in the late 1980s. In 1992–1993 there was a civil war in Abkhazia which resulted in Georgia's loss of control of most of the territory, the de facto independence of Abkhazia, and the ethnic cleansing of Georgians there. Despite the 1994 ceasefire agreement and years of negotiations, the dispute remains unresolved.

The situation got worse during the 2008 Georgia-Russia August war, where Abkhaz forces fought against Georgia, which led to the formal recognition of Abkhazia by Russia, the annulment of the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and the termination of the UN mission on the territory.

On 28 August 2008, the Parliament of Georgia declared Abkhazia a Russian-occupied territory, a stance supported by the vast majority of the international community.

By Thea Morrison

Image source: 1TV

02 May 2019 17:47